Day two in The Good Book Club study of the Book of Romans. My plans are to post some general comments and questions on the readings. I hope to post for most days. I know due to some of the hurdles of logging into the website Discipleship Forums that many won't comment. I also know that many may want to follow along with questions and brief commentary, but don't want to comment themselves (this is usually me). I will continue to post for those who want to follow along. Please feel free to join the conversation.
1.) Verse 8: Early in Paul’s letters Paul includes sentences of thanksgiving to God. Romans is not quite as extensive as other letters, but it is there. I love the way Paul places thanksgiving to God as the “first” thing. Hopelessness and despair have a hard time making a home in a grateful heart. There is power in recognizing God’s hand in our lives and the world around. It puts the chances, changes and circumstances of life in perspective. I sometimes find myself gravitating to the negative when looking at the world or life’s circumstances. This puts me on the low road to self-pity and behavior that tends to “tear down” rather than “build up.” Beginning with thankfulness to God frames the picture of life with the eternal boundary of God. The activity reminds me that there is a God responsible for all things known and unknown and…it’s not me.
A few questions: Is thanksgiving is important in life? Do you think thanksgiving drives away despair and dissension? Why do you think Paul begins his letters with a paragraph of thanksgiving? What can we learn from the “first” things of Paul?
2.) Verse 9: Paul talks about prayer and his action of praying for the Christians in Rome “without ceasing.” Paul references the non-stop activity of prayer and its importance in his life in other letters (thinking specifically about 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer for Paul is clearly not a formality or something devoid of power. It appears to be the source of strength and action for him. When looking at it in the context of a constant, it is Paul’s source of being. Martin Luther once said that “to be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Prayer from this perspective is an absolute essential to life itself. I have heard some almost ridicule prayer as a far second to action. It’s all about action, they will say and who really cares about prayer when there is so much to do. Of course, this assumes that prayer is in lieu of action, but nothing can be farther from reality for one who is truly a “slave” (see v 1) to Christ. Activity without prayer can become empty action losing sight of God as the called source of being and becoming. Prayer exchanges our vision for that of God. This engagement helps us discern necessary action and directs our steps along the way. It can even cause us to change direction. How can we know God’s will for us without talking with God and as or more important in prayer, listening to God. Paul is in good company, Jesus models the importance of prayer before many important moment in his ministry.
A few questions: What role does prayer play in your life of faith? What difference does prayer make in your life, if any? What do you think Paul means by praying without ceasing?
3.) Verses 11-12: These verses make me laugh. Paul states his purpose and then talks about his “spiritual” gifts and hopes that his gift may strengthen the community. He then stops in the midst of this self-aggrandizement and changes course to include all. It becomes about “mutual” encouragement.
4.)Verses 16-17: These two sentences state the theme of the next few chapters and an overriding theme for the entire Book of Romans. The good news about Jesus is “salvation to everyone who has faith.” He includes in this both Jews and non-Jews. In verse 16 Pauls says he is not “ashamed of the gospel.” At this point in his ministry Paul had suffered persecution and ridicule for his preaching of this “good news.” And yet, in the midst of the challenges, he maintained his dedication to the message of Jesus.
A few questions: Are there moments when you have been hesitant to talk about the good news of Jesus? What are some circumstances in life where we might be tempted to “hide” the fact that we are slaves to Christ? How do you think Paul overcame the temptation?